Latest Update: 31 December 2013
The past quarter has seen no improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. Regrettably Eritrea continued to violate its international obligations and domestic law, including in the key areas of arbitrary and inhumane detention, indefinite national service and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech. The UK has continued to raise human rights concerns with the Eritrean government at every opportunity, both bilaterally and as part of the EU.
Thousands of Eritreans continue to flee the country every month, risking perilous journeys and abuse at the hands of ruthless human trafficking gangs. In October, over 300 people (mostly Eritrean or Somali nationals) tragically drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of Lampedusa. We have continued to press the Eritrean government to address the underlying reasons for the exodus, especially interminable national service and the dire economic situation; to cooperate fully with the UN on countering human trafficking; and to bring to justice any Eritreans involved in this crime. We have also repeated our offer of practical support to Eritrea’s own anti-trafficking and victim protection efforts. In October, during an EU Article 8 dialogue session with an Eritrean team led by their Foreign Minister, EU Ambassadors in Asmara stressed the need for action to reduce the migration push factors. In November, FCO and National Crime Agency (NCA) officials in London met Eritrean Diaspora representatives to discuss action against trafficking.
Eritrea has continued to reject the legitimacy of the UN Special Rapporteur, Sheila B. Keetharuth, and still refuses to give her access to the country. However, it is encouraging that a technical team from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights will be visiting the country on 21 – 24 January.
Eritrea’s human rights record is due to be examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review in early 2014. We welcome Eritrea’s participation in this process. Our Ambassador in Asmara has continued to urge the government of Eritrea to use this process to announce concrete human rights reforms.
Update: 30 September 2013
Eritrea regrettably continues to violate its international obligations and domestic law. Over the past quarter, Eritrea has taken no concrete steps to improve its poor human rights record, including in key areas such as arbitrary and inhumane detention, indefinite national service and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech. Eritrea has rejected the May 2013 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and continues to refuse her access to the country.
During the past three months, the UK has continued to raise human rights concerns with the Eritrean government at every opportunity, both bilaterally and as part of the EU. In July, the Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, met Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and urged the government of Eritrea to improve human rights and cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur. Our Ambassador in Asmara has urged the government of Eritrea to use the forthcoming UN Universal Periodic Review to announce human rights reforms. She has continued to raise specific concerns, including the detention of prisoners, some elderly and frail, on religious grounds, and to press for cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur.
As in previous years, the EU High Representative published a Declaration on political prisoners in Eritrea on behalf of the European Union on 18 September, this being the twelfth anniversary of the detention without trial of a group of eleven members of parliament of the State of Eritrea (“the G-11”) and ten journalists who had called for democratic reform.
Update: 30 June 2013
Regrettably there has been no concrete improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea over the past three months As the May 2013 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea sets out, serious concerns remain unaddressed, including on issues such as arbitrary arrest and detention in inhumane conditions, torture, extrajudicial killing, indefinite national service and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech. Eritrea has still not granted access to the UN Special Rapporteur.
Over the past three months, the UK has continued to raise concerns about the human rights situation with the Eritrean government at every opportunity, both bilaterally and with EU partners in Asmara. We have urged cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur, including by allowing her to visit the country. In a meeting between the Eritrean Ambassador and the Minister for Africa, we once again made clear the deterrent effect that Eritrea’s appalling human rights record has on foreign companies considering investing in the country, and hence on the achievement of Eritrea’s own development targets.
The prolonged imprisonment without charge of members of non-State sanctioned religious groups continues to cause us particular concern. These individuals, some elderly and in poor health, can pose no conceivable threat to State security. Our Ambassador in Asmara has urged the Eritrean government to release all such prisoners as a first step towards ending all arbitrary detention.
At the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UK supported the renewal of the mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur and delivered a strong statement expressing our concerns about the human rights situation in Eritrea. We also requested access for the international community to the G11 politicians and journalists held in detention since 2001.
Update: 31 March 2013
The Eritrean government has still taken no concrete steps to address its poor human rights record, despite showing an increased willingness to discuss human rights with the international community. In January the Special Rapporteur was able to meet the Eritrean Ambassador to the UK in London.
Issues such as arbitrary and inhumane detention and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of expression and assembly continue to be of major concern. The UK continues to raise these issues with the Eritrean government at every opportunity. Bilaterally and with EU partners in Asmara we have continued to urge the Eritrean government to meet its UN Universal Periodic Review commitments and have offered our support for the implementation process. We have also continued to urge Eritrea to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur, including by allowing her to visit the country. We have also raised through the EU in Asmara reports of large-scale arrests this year of members of non state-sanctioned Christian denominations.
There are continuing reports of abuses suffered by Eritrean migrants at the hands of human trafficking gangs in the Sinai region. Our Ambassador participated in an EU dedicated session on migration and human trafficking with the Eritrean government in March 2013.